The role of communication, and more crucially conversation, in the retailer:customer relationship is at the heart of marketing and that conversation is on-going. It doesn’t start with an advert, nor does it stop when the customer leaves the store. The customer is participating in hundreds of conversations each day and the art to a retail marketing strategy is to be heard above the other voices.
That doesn’t mean shouting the loudest however. That conversation will be switched off pretty quickly if it intrudes in the customer’s life. The best conversations are the ones that are helpful, interesting and engaging and give the customer a reason to listen out for the retailer amongst the noise. Those conversations build loyalty and brand advocacy.
In-store marketing can often be an after-thought in the conversation. The interesting bit is getting the customer to the store in the first place, once they are there, the product will speak for itself. Not so. The conversation must be continued, consistently underpinned with the core marketing and brand message. The signage must compliment the marketing, the store layout must evoke the same brand values and the path to purchase must be satisfyingly completed to ensure that the customer is receptive to further conversations.
This may all seem rather like a ‘psychology of selling’ article but it is frightening how often the basics are overlooked, and demoted in the budget. A simple aspect of in-store marketing is directional signage. A recent visit to a Poundstretcher which had just been refitted, was a classic example of lovely new fixtures but desperately dull long aisles with no signage at all to help the customer along the path to purchase. On a good note, the staff at Poundstretcher knew where products were on the shelf and were able to help this customer including finding a price because the shelf label was missing.
On the other hand in-store marketing overkill can be as unhelpful as having none. Remember what it’s like to be shouted at? It’s very hard to listen when the noise level is turned too high, and it’s very hard to pick out what is being said if there are multiple conversations going on at the same time. Something supermarkets would do well to understand when they are fighting through all the POS.
Knowing what to talk about, when to talk about it and where to have the conversation should be central to a retail marketing strategy. It should be informed by the customer, which is something Tesco and Morrisons seem to taking on board, and should be consistent at all points of the conversation.
We look forward to seeing how Tesco and Morrisons develop in the coming months and how conversation forms part of their plans for growth.